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Manufacturer modifying Metro 7K rail cars after electric shock incident

Rail car part deteriorating prematurely, Metro official says

metro logoA component in Metro’s newest rail car series is breaking prematurely, and their manufacturer has designed a modification to fix it, Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel said Thursday.

A mechanic reported he suffered electrical shock while he was inspecting part of the underside of the 7000 series rail car at West Falls Church Rail Yard on Sunday, Stessel confirmed. This was related to the deteriorating rail car part, the ground brush. However, he suffered no serious injury. The mechanic said he did not want medical attention. However, Metro staff took him to a local hospital.

Stessel confirmed a problem is developing with the 7000 series trains, the newest in the Metrorail fleet.

“Yes, there were defective wires, there was a problem within the ground brush assembly itself and that problem is mitigated by the safety bulletin we put out,” Stessel said.

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Spare Part Woes

Broken Promises - Bad Dreams, A Metro Investigation (Third in a series)

FTA concerned with the latest in Metrorail’s budget problems

Metro entranceA problem with spare parts finds The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority once again in trouble with the Federal Transportation Administration.

Metro is now accused of dodging FTA procurement regulations.

According to the proposed FY2018 budget, WMATA charged $23 million in railcars to the operating budget because Metro managers were having difficulty complying with FTA requirements. Those funds apparently should have been charged to the capital budget.

According to the Approval of FY2018-2023 Capital Improvement Program and CFA extension that $23 million was spent on parts “necessary for railcar safety and reliability.”

According to that same report, the money was moved not only because some parts were not procured in compliance with federal regulations but also “a lack of available non-federal capital funding.”

Tom Bulger, a member of the Metro board of directors, said he wasn’t aware of this specific move of money, but he was aware of alterations to the procurement process to ensure that Metro had parts to repair things.

“I’m aware of the fact that we were running out of spare parts at a fast clip since 2016 and they {Metro} needed to get more supplies in order to keep up with maintenance and the procurement process was accelerated,” he said.

When asked why Metro was running out of parts, Bulger assigned blame to the suppliers.

“Supply. Logistics. The suppliers were behind. We weren’t able to obtain the parts on a schedule that would meet Metro’s requirements.”

Those alterations to the procurement process are part of The Parts Bridging Program, a program started by WMATA to “temporarily purchase parts using non-Federal funds and procurement rules until December 2017,” according to the Approval of OneYear Extension of Parts Bridging Program (PMP) and Update on Parts Procurement Program. Last October, the enrollment deadline was extended until December 31 of this year and the initial contract end date was extended until June 30, 2023. According to that report, the program was started after a board resolution imposed “heightened standards on parts procurement.”

However, according to that same report, Metro was also running out of parts. The report states that “In the 2015 Annual Vital Signs Report, the Office of Performance (CPO) noted its findings that the high non availability rates of revenue service vehicles were attributable in part to inventory part shortages throughout the warehouse system. This shortage of inventory parts was having an adverse effect on safety and on time service within the transit system.”

According to that report, “the existing procurement methods used by Metro could not correct this deficiency.”

According to the documents, a goal of the program is to - after the fact - request waivers for contracts that didn’t follow FTA regulations or be eligible for reimbursements from the FTA from any given part in the program.

According to FTA spokesman Steven Taubenkibel, the use of local funds is a local decision.

WMATA has been accused of breaking FTA regulations before.

In 2014, a damning FTA audit revealed WMATA’s misuse of grant money, which included WMATA incurring unallowable expenditures and underreporting $42 million in federal expenditures. According to the report, WMATA also offered a contract without soliciting the three bids necessary to make that contract competitive. According to the 2014 audit, Metro didn’t have the internal controls to properly manage their grant money, although the final report of the audit included documents that acknowledged Metro’s progress on improving its internal controls.

Carol Kissal, the CFO of the Metro at the time and the person to whom some of the problem departments reported too departed.

“It’s all been cleaned up as far as I know,” said Bulger. “It better be.”

“When the changeover came there was a different way for accounting for hours spent and parts and personnel that seems to be working better,” he said about the changes to Metro’s operations after the audit. And we brought in a new CFO from Chicago.”

FTA today still requires Metro to carry out corrective actions for safety and they oversee how WMATA uses federal grant money. According to the FY2017 budget, WMATA’s operating personnel budget decreased by $21.6 million, primarily because WMATA moved expenses for the required safety actions to the Capital Improvement Program. In that same year, that decrease was offset by increases for FTA required safety actions.

Earlier, FTA diverted a large sum of money into safety spending

According to FTA correspondence with WMATA, FTA diverted $20 million of non-safety spending into safety spending, $10 million away from pressure washing and cosmetic maintenance of the stations and $10 million away from open bankcard and automatic fare collection systems. They then put that money into SafeTrack.

FTA management is also apparently unhappy with the local governments and their failure to provide for adequate safety oversight for local transit. According to FTA correspondence with local governments in early 2017, FTA withheld federal grant money from local transit companies, including Metro, until a new safety oversight program could be certified and it is unclear if that has even happened yet.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation advised the Governors and Mayor that their respective jurisdictions may be subject to the withholding of up to five percent of their FY 2017 Urbanized Area formula funds if they did not collectively establish a State Safety Oversight Program (SSOP) for the rail operations of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metrorail), certified by FTA, by February 9, 2017,” reads the correspondence. “They have not met that deadline.”

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Metro has history of major problems

metro logoThe latest problems regarding safety on the Metrorail is but the latest in a long line of safety problems that go back decades – some say since the very beginning of the Metrorail system.

Others who’ve worked for Metro say getting repairs or any work done was a “constant battle,” with plenty of blame available to go around as to the cause.

In December 2009, the Tri-State Oversight Committee, Metro’s state-level safety oversight body which FTA later replaced, published a report that detailed an extensive list of workplace safety violations and a lack of a safety culture at WMATA.

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More Than 100 Violations

Metro Investigations (First in a series): Broken Promises - Bad Dreams

Metro managers still struggling with a broken unsafe rail system

Metro entranceWhile the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority claims Metrorail services is getting “Back 2 Good” a four month long investigation by The Sentinel newspapers shows the Metro system is still suffering from a laundry list of ills – including more than 100 safety deficiencies.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in June SafeTrack – WMATA’s yearlong effort to rehabili- tate its services was finished and three years worth of repairs were done in just a year. But Federal Transit Administration officials say there is still a list of 109 safety deficiencies that are past due.

“The mindset at the supervisor level and down is they really don’t do nothing unless they're specially directed to do it,” a former management level WMATA employee said. “They could walk right over something that was broke and not fix it because they were not told to do it.”

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Wile E. Coyote and the Metro rider

MC DC Wile E. Coyotes Acme Purchases Better Than Metro in BWThere is little doubt the Metrorail system is in desperate need of repair.
Despite a “Safetrack” plan by Metro to bring Metro “Back 2 Good” and despite all the inhouse ads on Metro touting its increased efforts to fix escalators, tracks, bring new metro rail cars online and clean up the metro stations, the federal government recently outlined more than 100 deficiencies the system still faces.
We at The Sentinel decided it was best since our readers are some of the most frequent Metro riders as they go to and from work, to take a close look at the Metro system.

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Eight years after Metro crash, families start to ‘grieve healthy’

  • Published in Local

MPI LegMem 0009 bRaja Williams (left) and Ava DeBose, children of crash victim Veronica DuBose, stand by the memorial dedicated to their mother in Legacy Memorial Park. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  The last thing Victor Fernandez told his mom, Ana, was “I love you,” and she said it back. The last thing Sergio Fernandez did was hug his mom, and she kissed him on the forehead.

Shortly thereafter, Ana Fernandez died in Metrorail’s catastrophic 2009 Red Line crash that took nine lives.

The accident’s eighth anniversary was recognized June 22 at Legacy Memorial Park on New Hampshire Avenue in Northeast D.C., just above the tracks where it happened. The families and friends of three of the deceased held an informal remembrance and prayed together.

Sergio, who’s now 18 and just graduated from Northwood High School in Silver Spring, said it’s been hard growing up without his mother, “But you gotta move on. You have to grow up.” Victor, 20, who graduated from Northwood last year, said, “We do everything in honor of her, like she was here.”

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Metro finally retiring oldest cars

  • Published in Local

NTSB first warned subway system about danger following 2004 incident

metro logoWASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board says Metro’s 1000 series cars have to go and a Metro spokesman claims they will be gone in a few weeks.

But the problem goes back more than a decade, to 2006 when the NTSB first told Metro managers they might need to replace the aging cars following an investigation into a 2004 acciddent.

Meanwhile Metro continues to operate 34 of its original rail cars to transport passengers, despite the National Transportation Safety Board’s 2010 recommendation to remove them.

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Single-tracking on Metro Red Line this weekend to test for electrical problems

  • Published in Local

metro logoMetro will begin single-tracking Red Line trains and reducing service this weekend, starting at 8 p.m. Friday, so its contractor can test for electrical problems on its rails, Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer said.

"I have said consistently that when we identify problems, we are going to address them head-on," said Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. "We now have a pattern of electrical issues all in the same area, and we are going to act to resolve the issue and improve service for our customers."

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Metro safety chief says aging rail fastener led to smoke on Red Line

  • Published in Local

metro logo

WASHINGTON – The Metro chief safety officer at a Board Safety Committee Meeting said smoke incidents near Gallery Place and Metro Center stations in the last two weeks resulted from rail fasteners that are wearing out.

Metro Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin said a stray electric current arced off a rail fastener, causing smoke near Metro Center Station Thursday morning. Lavin said the arcing occurred because the rubber coating of the aging rail fasteners was wearing thin, exposing the metal of the fastener to the stray current.

“What we’re finding is that the fasteners used at that location are basically starting to get to the end of their useful life,” Lavin said.

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